Tips for new BookTokers

BookTok has taken bookworms by storm – folks have discovered a reignited passion for reading, bookstores have seen huge upticks in sales, and eager creators have cultivated a special, diverse community.

It’s a uniquely warm & charming corner of the internet … but it can also be quite intimidating. When I first stumbled into BookTok, I felt lost and overwhelmed. How could I break in? How could I find people that would recommend books that aligned with my taste? How could I build my own audience?

Many months later, I’ve found real friends, read hundreds of books, and reached millions of viewers through my account. I’ve learned a lot since my first video, and I’d love to pass some knowledge along to you – future BookTok community members! Here are some tips that I wish I knew when I began.

Be specific.
The charm of BookTok lies in its micro communities. As you browse, you’ll stumble across specific hashtags for all sorts of genres and identities (such as #fantasybooktok, #queerbooktok, and so on). Explore them! You’ll find creators that exactly align with your interests. You’ll discover faces that aren’t necessarily being pushed in the algorithm otherwise (especially marginalized creators). Once you start engaging under these hashtags, you’ll get to dive deeper into their attached communities. And truly … there’s no such thing as too niche when it comes to books.

Additionally, getting specific with the recommendations that you share can help connect you with a compatible audience. For example, I’ve created series based on musicals and Criminal Minds episodes – two topics I adore. Others stumble into specialities like Shakespearean retellings, cozy fantasy books, or sapphic romances.

Yes, TikTok can be a place for fun trends and call-and-response types of memes. But if you show your originality and your specific style? You’ll really soar.

Stay consistent.
It’s the social-media-algorithm advice that nobody wants to hear. If you want to grow your account and cultivate an audience … you’ve got to post regularly! If you’re feeling ambitious, this may be multiple times a day. Many creators do their best to post daily. If you’re not able to commit to that (it’s definitely a lot of work), try uploading videos a few times a week.

There’s also another type of important consistency: engaging with the videos of other BookTok creators! You can’t ‘post and go’ and expect to be successful; your videos don’t exist in a vacuum. In order to have a voice on BookTok, you’ve got to stay in touch with other BookTokers. Which brings me to my next tip …

Support each other.
BookTok is a tight community. Do your part to keep it an encouraging place! Uplift other creators. Give credit to those who inspire you. Show gratitude to your new bookish friend who helped you discover a favorite read.

As you discover all the delightful niches within the space, you’ll learn to speak the “BookTok language.” You’ll start to grow your TBR (“to be read” list), hunger for exciting ARCs (“advanced reader copies”), and occasionally DNF (“do not finish”) a book that just isn’t up your alley. You’ll connect with other friendly nerds & discover you love unexpected genres & celebrate together when you hit your reading goals.

If you’re an author, please make sure you’re engaging authentically. A lot of authors make the mistake of treating TikTok like a giant sales opportunity. The problem with that is … we can tell! Social media is a powerful way to help your book find new readers, but if you want others to be excited for you and support you back, you’ve got to make yourself an authentic presence. Don’t exclusively talk about your book. Don’t post and ghost. If you enter BookTok with an open mind and a friendly attitude, you’ll find a community of folks authentically eager to check out your writing.

Develop a growth mindset.
When you enter BookTok, you’ll have access to voices from around the world. It’s incredible!
Challenge yourself. Diversify your reading; question what’s missing from your shelf.

It’s never been easier to find recommendations by marginalized voices shared by people from those same communities. Be open and stay humble. We all make mistakes and we all get lost in translation sometimes. Try to view stumbles as opportunities: continue to uplift diverse voices and remain excited for new ways to grow and mature.

We’re so happy to have you be part of BookTok. Grab a cup of coffee and stay a while – your TBR will never stop expanding. 😉

Author: Steph Pilavin is a content creator, actor, and head of operations for a meditation & mindfulness startup. She’s an avid reader and book reviewer … which led her to create her bookish TikTok account, starrysteph. Steph is dedicated to reading and recommending diverse literature and voices. She firmly believes that TikTok can be a platform for thoughtful discussion and community building. Steph is also a huge animal lover and loves to talk about her adorable pets, Persephone (“Percy”) her bunny and Artemis (“Artie”) her cat.

TikTok: @starrysteph

 

How do pre-orders affect release day sales?

What are pre-orders and why are they important?

Pre-orders are early purchases of your book that will be fulfilled on publication day. 

Historically, pre-orders have been viewed as a predictor of a book’s success by retailers. If your book is making waves before publication day, booksellers may increase their initial orders and provide your book with more exposure, which, in turn, may increase your odds of hitting bestseller lists. 

This is in part why marketing campaigns typically kick off months before publication day—because early buzz for a book can help alter its trajectory for the better!

How do pre-orders affect release day sales–and bestseller lists?

As it stands, the relationship between pre-orders and bestseller lists is far from linear. 

Pre-orders through booksellers and traditional retailers can often increase your chances of hitting a bestseller list, as these numbers count toward your first week’s sales. 

However, on Amazon, pre-orders are recorded the day of purchase, rather than on release day. So, any pre-orders you receive here will not count toward your ranking on publication day.

So, do Amazon pre-orders not count?

In terms of bestseller lists, pretty much, since lists from the New York Times and USA Today are usually based on your sales rankings for the first week of publication. 

However, you will still be paid for these pre-orders, of course, and they will still count toward Amazon’s internal rankings.

This is why some “Hot New Releases” you see on Amazon haven’t actually been released at all. If a book receives enough pre-orders to climb Amazon’s rankings, it can be named a Hot New Release, even before pub day.

What’s the best Amazon pre-order strategy for me?

For established authors, pre-order campaigns are usually a given. However, for debut authors, it may take a bit more thought to determine which strategy is best for you. 

Readers love the instant gratification of receiving a book right away. Amazon knows this, which is why they offer 2-day shipping and instant Kindle delivery for book buyers. This desire for instant gratification is also what makes pre-order campaigns difficult—for any author, but especially for debut authors.

New authors are faced with the unique challenge of getting readers to commit to purchasing a book by an author they’re unfamiliar with, and then waiting, weeks or even months, for that book to arrive. 

For a series author with a dedicated fanbase, however, pre-orders are more likely to come in, especially if the earlier books in the series have been well advertised and are selling well. When readers are hooked on your storytelling, they’ll be all the more eager to order ahead.

If you’re on the fence about setting up a pre-order, remember: since your book gets a sales ranking as soon as your pre-order starts on Amazon, pre-orders can actually weaken your sales charts for publication week on the platform. This, in turn, can reduce the amount of exposure Amazon is willing to give to your book at that time. Their algorithm has been shown to primarily help books that are already selling well by featuring those titles in bestseller rankings, also-boughts on other book pages, and in marketing emails.

For this reason, many debut authors choose to run a short Amazon pre-order campaign or skip it altogether.

How long should my Amazon pre-order last?

Many authors set their pre-order for somewhere between 90 days and two weeks before publication day. To determine what’s best for you, consider your marketing plan: how many weeks will you be doing outreach on social media, to your email list, and through advertising? You can tailor the lifespan of your listing to match you or your publicist’s efforts.

What about early reviews?

Amazon doesn’t allow reviews pre-publication day, which, like most things, can be a positive or a negative aspect of the site, depending on your vantage point. If you’re worried about how your latest book might be received—perhaps you took a risk and ventured into a genre your fan base isn’t used to seeing from you—then pre-orders can actually be to your advantage, because you won’t have a fast reader leaving a negative review and deterring others from buying a copy and coming to their own conclusion.

Recap: To pre-order or not to pre-order?

Although every author will have a unique strategy that works for them, here are some quick tips to help with your decision:

  • On non-Amazon sites, pre-orders are always a good idea, as they’ll count toward your first week’s sales, and set you up for success in myriad ways.
  • On Amazon, pre-orders are typically a good idea for series authors and authors with strong, established fanbases.
  • For debut authors, pre-orders can be worthwhile as long as you’re running them in conjunction with a predetermined marketing strategy, with a timeline and objectives in place.
  • If your goal is to sell as many copies as possible in a short few days in order to appease bestseller lists and the Amazon algorithm, consider skipping or shortening a pre-order campaign.

A pre-order strategy, while important, shouldn’t cause you tremendous stress. You can always chat with other authors and learn from their experiences, and be sure to monitor how your strategy performs so you can tweak it for your next release if needed. Trial and error is often the name of the game, so the more observant and curious you can be, the better!

Happy selling!

Books Forward December 2022 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

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How to develop an elevator pitch

Describe yourself in three words. I’m sure you’ve been faced with this dreaded, near-impossible task at some point. The longer you consider your options, the farther you seem to be from your goal. How can anyone distill their identity, with its many layers, into only three words?

As an author, you’re about to face a similarly head-scratching challenge: creating a 1-2 sentence elevator pitch for your book. Packaging the plot, emotional interest and core selling points of your work into such a small container may feel daunting, but with a systematic approach it can be simple and pain-free. And, as you navigate through the various stages of your book’s life, you’ll quickly find this pitch to be one of your most valuable assets!

What is an elevator pitch?

Also called a logline, an elevator pitch is a brief description of a book that serves as a plot summary and presents a sales hook. Traditionally, this logline will be no longer than two sentences, so concision is key. 

Your goal with your elevator pitch is to grab your audience’s attention–whether they are an agent, publisher, bookseller, librarian or general reader–and get them excited about your book. That said, your pitch can’t be full of empty promises. It has to accurately describe your plot, match the tone of the book, and reflect what makes your work compelling and unique. 

How do I write an elevator pitch?

A good logline will use original, descriptive words and will address the following questions in a clear and concise way:

  • What is the setting?
  • Who is the protagonist?
  • What does the protagonist want? What is their central motivation or goal?
  • What is at stake for the protagonist?
  • Who (or what) is the antagonist, and how do they relate to the protagonist?
  • What will the protagonist actually do in the story? What action will they take?

25-Word Example (based on André Aciman’s “Call Me By Your Name”):

  • Italy in the 1980s: 17-year-old Elio falls passionately in love with an American man. The six weeks they spend together, though fleeting, change him forever.
  • What is the setting? Italy in the 1980s
  • Who is the protagonist? 17-year-old Elio
  • What does the protagonist want? To find love
  • What is at stake for the protagonist? Heartbreak (implied)
  • Who (or what) is the antagonist? The fleeting six-week time limit that restricts their romance; a society that doesn’t understand love between two men (implied)
  • What will the protagonist actually do in the story? He pursues a life-changing romance with an American man

50-Word Example (based on Mason Deaver’s “I Wish You All the Best”):

  • When 18-year-old Ben comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re kicked out of the house and forced to switch schools. Dealing with heightened anxiety, they’re torn between their desire for anonymity and their growing attraction to charming student Nathan, whose friendship helps Ben believe a happier life is possible.
  • What is the setting? High school
  • Who is the protagonist? 18-year-old Ben
  • What does the protagonist want? A happier life
  • What is at stake for the protagonist? They risk losing the safety net of their anonymity 
  • Who (or what) is the antagonist? Their parents who kicked them out; their heightened anxiety
  • What will the protagonist actually do in the story? What action will they take? They attend a new school, and they fall into a promising new friendship with Nathan

75-Word Example (based on Lisa See’s “Shanghai Girls”):

  • In Shanghai in the late 1930s, 21-year old Pearl and her younger sister May have their glamorous lives upended after they learn they’ve been sold as brides to suitors from California. As bombs drop suddenly on their beloved city, traveling to the United States may be the fresh start they need; but living with these strange men in an unwelcoming country puts their bond as sisters and best friends to the ultimate test. 
  • What is the setting? Shanghai in the late 1930s
  • Who are the protagonists? 21-year old Pearl and her younger sister May
  • What do the protagonists want? A fresh start; safety from the bombs that fall on Shanghai
  • What is at stake for the protagonists? Their bond as sisters and best friends
  • Who (or what) is the antagonist? The war that’s destroying their city, the unknown suitors they marry, and the unwelcoming Americans they encounter
  • What will the protagonists do in the story? Marry suitors, and move from Shanghai to the United States to escape the threat of war

What should I avoid doing when writing an elevator pitch?

Avoid major spoilers

You’ll want to share enough information in your logline to pique the reader’s interest, but not so much that they know every major plot detail. You should leave the reader wanting to know more. 

Avoid buzzwords, cliché phrases, and vague language

Words that are overused in book marketing lose their impact and become vague over time. They can also detract from what makes your book unique. Instead, opt for original adjectives and precise language whenever possible.

Avoid focusing too much on themes

When asked “what is your book about?” it may be tempting to reply with the book’s core themes or philosophical talking points. “It’s about liminality; second chances; the risks we take for the ones we love; the power of storytelling.” You get the idea. While important to the story, without an explanation of plot to contextualize them, these themes can end up feeling lifeless.

Avoid excessive name-dropping

Unless the protagonist is famous and the sales hook relies on their name-recognition, cutting out character names can save you lots of precious space. 

Avoid “meanwhile” statements 

Focus on one major conflict whenever possible. Mentioning too many subplots in your elevator pitch can be confusing for the reader and may detract from your primary selling points.

How should I use my pitch when it’s ready to go? 

Your elevator pitch may be one of your single greatest assets as an author. It can:

  • Help you get connected with an agent
  • Help you or your agent find the right publisher
  • Help you or your sales team pitch to buyers
  • Help you grab the attention of booksellers and librarians
  • Be adapted into a book blurb to hook readers
  • Be adapted into social media posts to promote your book

Is it okay to have more than one elevator pitch?

Absolutely! It can be useful to have a few options to choose from. So if you can’t decide on just one logline, don’t stress. As an exercise in building your repertoire, consider creating different loglines based on length– one at 25 words, one at 50 words and one at 75. Then, mix and match, or select your favorite from the bunch.

When writing an elevator pitch, try not to think about all of the exciting details you’re leaving out. You’ll inevitably have to keep much of your novel’s plot hidden from view, but that’s a good thing! Those will be the surprises that shock and delight your reader down the road. 

Instead, think of what you can include in your pitch by addressing the list of questions above. Focus on what makes your book stand out from the crowd. Keep your pitch fresh, compelling and concise, and you’ll be all set!

Books Forward November 2022 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

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Books Forward October 2022 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the October 2022 newsletter here!

What is bookish swag, and how do I use it?

As an author, you have a lot to think about, and as you make your way through your publishing journey, you might be wondering, “What is swag and do I need it?”

Bookish swag is just any item you use to help promote your book – whether it’s through a giveaway or as part of a preorder opportunity. It can be very simple, or you can make a box filled with items that pertain to your story!

Is it something that’s totally necessary? Absolutely not! But it can help your book stand out, and possibly give readers another reason to preorder. And there are options that fit almost any budget.

Bookmarks are a classic, cost-effective option, and can include a quote, your book cover, a headshot, and any other information you think readers, bookstore owners, or librarians might need. And when you order them in bulk, they are fairly cost-effective! You can also search bulk order sites for items related to your book to get ideas.

Get creative! We asked influencers about some of their favorite swag they’ve received, and here are some examples they gave!:

  • Magnets
  • Totes
  • Sunglasses
  • Candles
  • Sunscreen and lotion
  • Notebook
  • Chapstick
  • Playing cards
  • Jewelry
  • Postcards from cities visited in the book
  • Beach towel
  • Coasters
  • Pens and pencils
  • Wine glasses and cups
  • Key chain
  • Candy and snacks
  • Stickers and temporary tattoos

There are tons of different directions you can go in. When we worked on a children’s book about a character made from salt from the swamps of Louisiana, we got together with a local spice company to create custom spice blends for swag boxes with a sticker of each character from the book on them.

When possible, it’s good to brand any swag you make with your website or the book title, so readers will remember you every time they use it! And when in doubt, have your friends and early readers give feedback on what they think.

How authors can make the most of working with their publicists

There are so many great duos: Sonny and Cher. Peanut butter and jelly. Calvin and Hobbes. An author and their publicist.

If you’ve hired a publicist to help market your book, you’ve already taken the first step in building a truly dynamic partnership. And with any partnership, it’s important that both sides are working together toward a common goal.

Here are a few things to remember as you start working with your publicist:

Communicate with your publicist

You know your book better than anyone else. If you have ideas on marketing strategies, let your publicist know. Any author can hire a publicist and let them take over, but you’ll find value in collaborating with your publicist and truly being a team.

Ask questions

Whether you’re a debut author or you’ve published numerous books, the publishing world is constantly changing, and that goes for literary marketing as well. Your publicist is there to help answer questions and guide you through your book marketing journey. They might not always have the answers, but a good publicist will work to help solve problems and be a listening ear for your concerns.

Be open to new ideas

Your publicist’s job first and foremost is to promote you and your book, and sometimes that can mean brainstorming fresh ideas and new ways to market your book to readers. Together, you and your publicist can get creative and figure out how to set your work apart from the pack. You never know how one opportunity can lead to another, and even “smaller” opportunities have value in the short and long term.

Be timely

This one shouldn’t be a stretch: Most authors are used to working on deadline. If your publicist gives you a deadline for something, let them know if you’ll be able to meet that deadline — and then meet that deadline.

Be responsive

We know everyone gets approximately 1,187 emails a day, and your publicist isn’t purposely trying to add to your inbox (we promise!). Thankfully, the book industry isn’t one where fires are continuously being put out every single day.

With that being said, responding in a timely manner to your publicist’s communication helps them do their job. And the reverse is the same: Your publicist should be accessible to you, and you shouldn’t be waiting weeks to hear back from them.

Early on in your partnership, work with your publicist to set an expectation for response times that both of you can agree to follow. Or a good rule of thumb is responding within 24-48 working hours (aka, don’t feel like you need to give up your weekends or holidays).

And remember, if you’re going to be unavailable and away from email for an extended period of time, let your publicist know — we want you to enjoy that family vacay you planned without worrying about emails from us!

Be honest

They say honesty is the best policy for a reason. Every relationship requires honest communication, and a working one is no different. If you’re worried about an upcoming event or struggling with a particular task you’ve been assigned, let your publicist know. And also expect honesty from them in return.

Remember, your publicist is on your team

Your publicist wants what’s best for you and your book, and both of you want to succeed. Publishing and promoting a book is stressful, and the team you assemble should help make that journey easy to navigate. Cultivate a good relationship with your publicist, and allow them to take the reins so you can do what you do best — write!

Books Forward September 2022 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the September 2022 newsletter here!

Networking tips for authors

It’s true that the writing life is often a solitary one–long nights alone at your computer, anyone?–and perhaps for that very reason, it’s important to intentionally step out of your comfort zone and find your writing community.

Writing workshops (whether in person or online) are an especially great way to meet other authors. These are spaces where you can share your goals as a writer and improve your writing in a collaborative space.

Finding peers who understand your passion is also a great motivator! You can learn from each other and grow together personally as well as professionally.

Here are some key tips for getting started on your networking journey.

Become DM-Friendly

We all know that networking involves reaching out to others, but the other half of the battle is making yourself available for contact. Here are a few steps you can take to make your online pages more approachable:

  • Include your professional email address and/or phone number on your website and social media accounts.
  • Keep your social media handles consistent across all platforms so you’ll be easy to locate online.
  • Make sure your social media pages are public and that your notifications are turned on so you’ll know when someone drops you a note!
  • Design your website to be a conversation starter! Share unique information about yourself, or include a free sample of your writing to encourage feedback.
  • Start an email newsletter. This will allow you to gather email addresses from fellow writers (and readers!). Be sure to send new subscribers a “thank you for joining” email, and see what relationships blossom.

Attend Events

Become a frequent attendee! Turn out for bookstore events, writing workshops and book clubs in your local area or online. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to find someone with common interests! Exchange business cards or contact information and set a date/time to meet up again.

Lend a Helping Hand

Offer your assistance! Set up tables and chairs for a book launch event, or work the ticket booth. Boost a fellow writer’s work on social media. Review their work on Goodreads/Amazon. Offer to be a beta reader. Be that supportive person they can count on when they’re feeling insecure or overwhelmed.

And when it’s your turn to ask for help, be specific about your needs and note any deadlines you may have. Others will be more willing to return the favor if they know exactly what they’re getting into!

What Goes Around Comes Around

Just like friendships, networking is a two-way street. If someone provides you with a blurb for your book or invites you to an event, be sure to return the favor!

And as you gain more experience in the industry, become a mentor to someone else. Introduce them to your contacts and show them the ropes. You may feel like you’re doing most of the heavy lifting at first, but you never know where your mentee will go–you may end up learning from them too!

The Host with the Most

As your circle grows larger, it’ll be easier for you to take initiative and host your own networking events. Depending on where your network is based, you can host events online or in person. Here are a few ideas to try out:

  • Go live on Instagram or Facebook. You’ll see lots of familiar faces during your livestream, and you may make a few new friends too!
  • Host a writing workshop, book club, or other event in your community
  • Offer to host a friend’s book launch party on Zoom or in person

All in all, networking is a give and take. It’s about supporting other writers and learning from their successes (and mistakes!) just as much as it’s about getting assistance in promoting your work. The most important rule of thumb is to be genuine. Be true to yourself! If you put out positivity, you’ll be sure to get it back from your community.